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Flame-roasted eggplant spread with lemon and garlic

Time50 minutes
YieldsMakes about 2 cups
Flame-roasted eggplant spread with lemon and garlic
(Mel Melcon / Los Angeles Times )
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At least once a summer, I make my mother’s Romanian fire-roasted eggplant salad. Spiked with garlic and lemon and fork-whisked to creaminess, it’s an ethereal kind of baba ghanouj. Fire-roasting is key; fast, high-heat cooking keeps the flesh white while infusing smoky flavor. The process is a bit messy, so do this a day ahead, either directly on the stove burner or a hot grill.

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1

Place the whole eggplants directly on the burners of a gas stove turned to medium-high or close to a medium-high fire on a grill. Roast, turning often, until the skins blacken and flake and the eggplants collapse and are meltingly tender, 10 to 15 minutes. As the eggplants start to char, the skins will tear and release steam and juices. If the skin burns before the flesh is tender, lower the flame slightly.

2

Remove each eggplant to a plate (use 2 large spoons or spatulas to manage this). While still hot, split them open flat like a book. Scoop pulp into a sieve set over a bowl, scraping as much as possible from the skin and leaving any juices behind. If there are a lot of seeds, remove some, and pick out any black bits of skin. Drain 10 minutes, discard juices, and place pulp in a bowl.

3

Using a whisking motion, mash pulp with a fork, adding oil gradually until the mixture is light and fluffy. Stir in garlic, lemon juice and salt to taste. The mixture will be a pale gold. It can be refrigerated for up to 1 day before serving.

Adapted from “The Santa Monica Farmers’ Market Cookbook” by Amelia Saltsman.